Saturday, May 30, 2009

Maybe Next Year?

It's been an interesting couple of days talking Standardbreds with a man with some horses to sell. Well, they are not all his horses, but he's trying to broker a few deals and get these horses into the hands of new owners. We haven't met yet, but I'm looking forward to it. This gentleman is obviously knowledgeable, honest and a real straight shooter. I like that a lot. The stock he owns personally isn't high class, nor has he priced them that way. The prices his client's want...well, that's another matter entirely.

Without getting in to specific details, one example: a four year old pacer with a lifetime best mark of around 1:57; races at short season Running Aces/Iowa Fairs/Prairie Meadows (combined average purses per race about $3500); has two wins in '09 - for races with purses well under the average. Asking price: $18,000.

This illustrates something I have found trying to buy a Standardbred for a group up here. If there is even the slightest hint of talent, the asking price is through the roof. It is as if once a track was built the value of a horse jumped exponentially. I can understand the value increasing now that there is going to be more than just the local Fairs to race at, but $18,000 for a horse that would have to be dominating to make it's purchase price plus training fees back over a couple of years?

Here is how I break it down: Even at the highest levels in this area it would need to win almost 9 races to earn back her price - but that doesn't include training, shoeing, vet care, etc. That's a bit of a moving target, but add on 8 more wins over two years to cover these costs plus turn out fees over the winter. That's 17 wins over two years only to just about break even. That's one helluva horse. Breeding potential? Probably not this one and not my gig anyhow.

Now folks will say that this isn't something you get into to make money. In a way, I agree. You can't expect to make a profit, it's just too hard. But you have to at least try. It has to be a goal. A successful group, in my opinion, is if folks can have some fun, take some win pictures, feed some carrots, watch some training and stay around even. Earning money on top of that is the icing on the cake. When you run a partnership, you have a responsibility to the folks that spend their money with you. You need to treat that money as if it were your own. Digging yourself a hole too deep to climb out of right out of the gate just doesn't make any sense to me and would be an abrogation of that responsibility. Looking at the above example, winning half that many races would be a successful couple of years and a win percentage of about 25% - but at the current asking price we would have lost roughly $9,000 over two years. That doesn't meet my criteria for success.

I'm going to keep trying to get something done, though it'll have to be quickly as the season ends August 9. Unless you own and train your own stock, if we are going to be in harness racing, it looks like we are better off racing at a distance and stay back East for now. There is more of a Middle Class there, if you will. You can have a goal of staying around even - there are enough tracks, money and horses to shop around. At this moment, you just can't do that here. I don't think that bodes well for the sport here long term, but right now it's the way it is.

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